Tag Archives: saving money

Weekend Survival Guide for the Girl on a Budget

Issue 44

Every Monday we provide you with our past weekend’s agenda to show you how you can continue to do what you love on the weekend while using your common cents.

Total Estimated Savings: $175.00

Total Amount Spent: $168.00

Friday

Brunch

Food and Friends are two areas that get top priority when it comes to spending!

Saturday

Sunday

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 Brittany

How to Stay Sane and Maintain Friendships while Living on a Budget

Sometimes when you are fighting tooth and nail to get out of debt or save a large amount of money for a future expense, such as a down payment on a house or college tuition, your intensity takes you across a fine line, and your healthy determination becomes an unhealthy obsession. If—okay, okay, WHEN—this happens you have to take a step back and remove your blinders because money is just money, and being a miser not worth losing out on relationships and monumental occasions with your friends and family.

We all know that being financially fit is an important part of survival in today’s world, but there are other parts of life that are just simply MORE important. When you feel yourself over-stressing about monetary situations that are minor blips on the radar of life, fearing that your friends have forgotten you exist due to your new hobby of hermit-ing (pretty sure that’s a word I just made up), or shaming yourself for the lack of love you’ve been sharing with others, it’s useful to have strategies to get yourself back on track to living a life you love—and keeping your relationships with your peeps alive and well.

Just because you are “on a budget” does not mean you are destined to eat Ramen alone every night. There are some ways that you can make sure you keep a level head about money matters, maintain positive relationships with your friends and family, and continue to share love with your peeps no matter what kind of budget you are following.

word art

1. Brainstorm a list of your current life priorities, and put them in order. When you see that money isn’t at the top of the list, you can motivate yourself to quit acting like it is.

priority

Money can buy you things, but consciously examining your life priorities reminds you it’s not the only path to a full life. Don’t let yourself forget that!

2. After you master the art of saying “no” every once in awhile, make sure you balance that out by saying “yes” every once in awhile too. When you first start picking and choosing which activities or items to spend money on, it can be difficult to walk away without forking over dough. After a little time has passed and you begin to notice progress with your finances, it gets easier to say “no”, and you might find yourself having trouble saying “yes”. Make sure you stay involved in activities and relationships at the top of your priority list because these are the best parts of life.

photo credit: www.capescoaching.wordpress.com

photo credit: www.capescoaching.wordpress.com

3. Talk to people. The gift of gab…never. stops. giving.

talking on the phone

photo credit: www.elephantjournal.com

4. Share what you can. If your budget doesn’t allow you to dole out the big bucks to frequently treat your friends or family to the finer things in life, make a valiant effort to make the best of what you have and give what you can. Invite them over for home cooked dinner or lend them your favorite shade of nail polish. Stumble upon a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for an item you only need one of? Shop with your friend, and share the wealth. Get a promo code via email that you aren’t going to be able to use? Go ahead and forward that to a near and dear who will. When it comes to sharing, think outside of the box and give what you can. Others will appreciate it, and you will enjoy it.

cupcakes

If someone gives you half a dozen cupcakes, give four or five to your friends.

5. Plan activities that aren’t expensive. Who says your only social interactions have to revolve around buying food, drinks, or clothes? Nobody—that’s who! Take the reins, and set up wallet-friendly fun like brunch at your place, going for a walk or hike, cheering on your alma mater in a sporting event, or chatting while your dogs go wild at the dog park.

taking reins

Hiking the Bell Trail in Sedona, AZ was free and exhilarating.

6. Cut yourself a little slack. Whenever I feel like I’m not doing as well as I wish I was—with money, relationships, just being a good human in general—I remind myself that my (perceived) “failure” probably isn’t a very big deal in the whole scope of my life or anyone else’s for that matter. And please know that “I remind myself,” is actually code for, “usually after about five rounds of beating myself up over something insignificant..I remind myself”. Everyone is their own worst critic. If you feel like you messed up or aren’t meeting the standards you have set for yourself, you have to let it go and find a way to move forward. If you can’t do that, you just get stuck.

When you start to feel defeated about money or life, try to see yourself from your dog's point of view.

When you start to feel defeated about money or life, and all else fails–try to see yourself from your dog’s point of view.

 For more information about how to start making progress on getting out of debt or gaining control of your finances, check out our Getting Started tab at the top of our page.

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 Brittany

 

 

 

 

Brittany’s June Debt Progress Report

The graph below summarizes my short term debt progress across all of my individual loans. The blue column represents my debt totals for individual loans as of June 1, 2014, and the green columns represent my debt totals for individual loans as of June 30, 2014. Looking at the debt progress in this format really emphasizes how paying more than the minimum has a HUGE impact on your debt decrease. My ACS Student Loan is my current focal loan, and in the month of June its total was nearly split in half by the end of the month, whereas loans I am paying minimums on only decreased by an average of 1%.

individual prgoress

The bar graph below represents the long term and short term progress I have made on my overall debt. The grey bar represents my original total debt amount, the blue bar is my total debt one month ago, and the green bar shows how much debt I have today. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like you are making progress when you look at your BIG number on a month-to-month basis, but looking back to the beginning can remind you how far you have come!

total progress

Having ONE target loan will increase the rate at which you can pay off your debt and decrease the amount of money you will pay towards interest to help you become debt free sooner!

Because I am paying above the minimum monthly requirement on my focal loan, the percentage being paid towards interest actually dipped to 0.4% of my total payment this month! In contrast, 40% of the total amount I put towards the loans I am making minimum payments on went towards interest!! My largest loan is being paid off SO SLOWLY because 86% of my monthly minimum is going toward interest! You want to pay as much as possible toward the principal because that is what helps speed up the process of eliminating debt. The chart below gives you a visual representation of these numbers.

interest comparison

It might seem like cash flowing money right now is rough, but if you make minimum monthly payments until all of your debt is gone, you will end up paying MUCH MORE than your original loan amounts in the long run.

Tell your Income Where to Go

The pie chart below summarizes where I delegated my earned income during the month of June. Fifty percent of my earned income went towards debt—that includes my minimum monthly payments and extra cash flow—and the other 50% went towards my living expenses (food, rent, etc.). I did not delegate any money to long term or short term savings this month.

pie chart

Roadblocks: I experienced a couple of roadblocks during the month of June. The first was that I have SO MUCH free time since the school year ended, and this has really increased the temptations and opportunities to spend more money. Sticking to my bi-weekly allotted cash amount has been more difficult than it was when 8-10 hours of my day were consumed by work. I’m not complaining too much though 😉

The second roadblock I faced was a credit card payment that was about double what I typically pay each month. I had been ordering bridesmaids dresses from companies that offer free returns so that I can try them on, make a judgment, and send them back to get refunded and pretend like the whole thing never happened. It was an excellent plan until it my payment was refunded AFTER I had received my monthly statement. In other words, by the time my credit card payment was due; my current balance was LESS than original statement of money owed for my previous month’s purchases. I always pay the full statement amount because paying interest on a credit card is a complete waste of money. Instead of calling the company and trying to get my refund applied to the previous month’s statement (the statement whose payment was due), I just paid the whole thing off at once knowing that I will have little to nothing to pay in July and won’t have to waste any of my time dealing with the credit card company or worry about potentially earning interest. A roadblock for now, but I know that it will put me a little bit ahead in July.

June Dollar Holllaas: Other than my regular paycheck, there were no dollar hollaaas in June. I think I may be hollering a bit louder on payday though—does that count? 😉

Looking Forward: My goal is to have my ACS Student Loan completely paid off by the end of July. Because I can see my next smallest loan—my car loan—decreasing each month I feel pretty good about it, and I have decided to tackle my biggest loan (and biggest headache) as soon as the ACS is wiped from my slate. After nearly a year of minimum payments that $21,000 loan has only decreased by about $500, and it is MAKING ME FURIOUS. It’s time to grab a life vest and save myself from drowning in those Great Lakes….too much? I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

For more information about how to start making progress on getting out of debt or gaining control of your finances, check out our Getting Started tab at the top of our page.

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 Brittany

How to Get Ahead when your Monthly Income = Monthly Expenses

The main goal of earning an income is equaling (and exceeding) your monthly expenses. When your income and your expenses are equal, it ensures that you can pay all of your bills but leaves you little to no additional money leftover for other activities or things that require payment. But what if your income is less than your monthly expenses? How do you get out of that mess and start enjoying life a little bit more? The chart below lists some quick and easy ways to cut expenses to give yourself a bigger cash cushion at the end of each month.

Expenses to Cut

1. Cable. Cutting cable is the fastest and easiest way to decrease your monthly expenses. On average, you can save $30-$75 PER MONTH when you say goodbye to cable. That’s an impressive $360-$900 per year that you can put toward debt or other smart investments. The compromise is to cut cable but keep internet and order a subscription to Netflix or HuluPlus.

2. Internet. Internet may be hard to cut because it’s so versatile, but you may live near a coffee shop or restaurant that offers free Wi-Fi. Maybe you can even start reading a new book instead or thinking about what you can do with that extra $30 per month.

3. Spending Money. Decreasing spending money is an easy but painful way to save money. Cut out two happy hours, two nights of eating out, and 3 fast food runs to save $60-$75 per month. I’m sure you’ll see your scale decrease a few lbs too J

4. Utilities. Start being mindful of how much energy you’re using. Keep the lights off when it’s light outside, suffer a little in those warm or cold months by keeping your house a few degrees warmer, and take showers that are 3 minutes shorter than normal. Simple changes in your everyday routines can help save you hundreds per year.

5. Grocery Money. “Beans and rice and rice and beans” is Dave Ramsey’s motto for your grocery fund when you’re paying off debt. I don’t know about you but I love food and couldn’t live on a few staple ingredients for a few years. Try cutting your grocery money envelope by $30 initially. After a few months, cut it by another $30. When you have less money to spend, it’s incredible how you find ways to save or “go without”.

6. Avoid overdraft fees/late fees. Pay attention to when your bills are coming out. Put your bills in your phone calendar with the amount being taken out and an alarm that alerts you 2 days before that bill is due. When you know what is coming out and when, you’ll make sure to have money in your account to pay those bills. If you don’t have enough money in your account to pay all of your bills when they’re due, prioritize. Which bills have penalties for being late? Which bills don’t apply penalties initially? Use these tips to help you decrease your monthly expenses or find a way to increase your income.

7. Get a Roommate. If you live alone, you may want to consider finding a roommate. Living alone can cost $300 more per month than living with someone else. Chances are you can find a nicer space to live if you split the bill with a roommate. Not only does having a roommate impact your rent, but it cuts all of your utilities in half as well!

8. 1-payment plans. If you budget correctly, you can save money and eliminate a continuous monthly expense when you choose a 1-payment plan for bills like auto insurance. I like only having to pay twice a year toward my insurance. If you’re not able to do that, try to pay in as few payments as possible to avoid processing fees.

Expenses to Cut Picture

Picture is a courtesy of blog.hirevelocity.com.

For more information on starting a personal budget, check out our Getting Started tab at the top of the page.

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Life Happens…Goals Change.

Throughout the course of a year, your short term plans may change drastically. You may lose your job, move, get married, have a baby, etc. Life happens and your budget and long term goals should change with it. Below are some options to keep in mind when life happens and goals change.

My plans changed when I found out I was moving halfway across the country this summer. I had to re-evaluate my debt repayment plan. Here are some of the options I considered:

Plans Change Chart 1

Plans Change Pic

Plans Change Chart 2

Plans Change Pic 2

Plans Change Chart 3

Plans Change Pic 3 Plans Change Chart 4

My decision: Option #1: Continue putting some (a set amount) extra toward debt/savings while saving for the move.

I am able to continue paying a little extra toward my student loan, making me feel like I’m making some sort of progress toward debt. I also am able to save more than enough for our move and may have some leftover to throw toward debt as well!

Don’t be afraid to change your financial goals but don’t forget to make new ones that fulfill your needs!

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Sam

Sam’s March Debt Progress Report

I will be moving across the country in July, and have put my debt snowball plans on hold to save up for the big move. I will be paying about $600/month toward my student loan for the next four months. If I have money left over from our move, it will get dumped onto my student loan.

The graph below summarizes my short term debt progress during the month of March.

The blue columns represent my debt totals for individual loans as of March 1, 2014.

The pink columns represent my debt totals for individual loans as of March 31, 2014.

Looking at the debt progress in this format really emphasizes how debt payments can affect your progress. You can see that the debt I made minimum payments on only decreased by a relatively small amount. You can also see that paying more than the minimum has a HUGE impact on your debt decrease (not shown on the chart below).

March Monthly Debt 1Since I am only paying minimum payments on my student loan, the total debt amount decreases very little.

 

March Total DebtPaying more than the minimum (overall) has made a significant impact toward decreasing my debt.

March Applied Toward Interest

Most of my minimum payment (77% of it!) went toward interest in March.

March Income Applied Toward Debt

Roadblocks: Going to TWO trips in March really messed up my debt snowball and savings plans. I spent about $1,700 total on trips in March. Some of the money was saved up, and some was taken from my typical monthly debt snowball money. I’m excited to get back on track and start saving like crazy!

March Dollar Hollaaas: Unfortunately, none this month!

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Sam

Wedding Budget 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Wedding Budgets for the Financially Unprepared Bride-to-Be

junior

Shortly after the New Year, I found a sparkly piece of jewelry in the bottom of a box of Junior Mints, so I decided to ditch my boyfriend and have been chillin’ with my fiancé ever since. Now, if I were one of those girls that has been tossing coins into a savings fund for my dream wedding ever since the first time I watched a chick flick at a slumber party—well, quite frankly, this post wouldn’t even exist. Alas, I am not that girl, and on the day I put on my pretty ring, I had zero dollars and cents dedicated to the cause of everlasting love. So after about a week of staring at the ring and reminding myself it was mine, I had to come back to reality and make a plan.

Here is how a completely financially unprepared Bride-to-Be can create a personalized budget and payment plan suitable for a paid in full, aisle-walking day of I Do’s

Phase 1: Have some fun—with your eyes wide open

Our Venue is one of our top priorities, so when making our budget--it got first dibs

During Phase 1 we realized that an outdoor wedding was a huge part of our personal wedding style and that played a large role in the creation of our wedding budget.

  • Get a Sense of your own Personal Style – Without considering costs, I started looking at videos and pictures from weddings to get ideas of what I like and would actually go for in real life. I didn’t think about money in detail at this point but was getting an idea of wedding costs with a broad perspective. And most importantly, if I started to look at prices that stressed me out or overwhelmed me, I shut it down.
  • Talk to your Friends and Family – I would be LOST, without the help of my friends and family. A really great part of getting engaged is being able to experience the unending heaps of help from anyone who has previously gone through that experience. I have been welcoming the  unsolicited and requested help of friends and family for nearly two months now, and it is still one of the most helpful and my most favorite parts of planning—and it played a HUGE role in developing my wedding budget.
  • Research Budgets—After my time spent in newly engaged La-La land helped me figure out what I was looking for visually and experientially, I knew I needed to do some research about how to manage this feat financially.  Sample wedding budgets are EVERYWHERE and they come in all shapes in sizes—literally, Dr. Seuss could write a book about them. One of my main focuses when perusing wedding budgets (I collected them online and from super awesome friends) was to make sure I didn’t accidentally forget about anything or anyone :)

Below are 3 online Wedding Budgets that I found helpful enough to Pin and keep around:

http://www.hawaiiweddinglove.com/unexpected-wedding-costs/

http://theeverylastdetail.com/wedding-planning/resources/wedding-budget/

http://southernweddings.com/2013/06/25/southern-expert-budgeting-for-your-wedding/

Phase 2: Start Stacking Bills on Bills on Bills

  • Pick a Price you are Comfortable Paying—This is a very personal step, and it was a big decision for my fiancé and I because we want to make sure our wedding encompasses all that we want to share with our family and friends, but we would both probably get bald spots if we were spending more money than we felt was necessary.  Everyone is different, but having a specific target number is very important when planning a financially responsible wedding.
  • Find your Cash Flow—Traditions often play a role in who pays for what at weddings, so it is important that you have an honest conversation with your family members about your own family’s stance on wedding funding. And if you know you are personally paying for all or some of it, make sure you know how much money you will need. Your total need and timeline will dictate the rate at which you should save money so you are well-prepared for all wedding-related expenses.

Phase 3: Digging into Details

  • Prioritize—Determine the most crucial and (likely) expensive aspects your wedding day, and start your budget there. Once you have the big points—ceremony location, reception location, food, etc.—nailed down, then you can branch out to the aspects that might be lower on your wedding totem pole and start delegating your funds accordingly.
  • Finalize (with flexibility) the Remaining Details of your Wedding Budget—At this point, you have done the research. You know what you like, what you truly need to make a wedding happen, and how much money is going to be available for you do to it. This is the time to create your own personalized budget. I took all the information I learned/gathered from super-super detailed wedding budgets and lists I found online and combined it with the wedding budget info I got from AH-MAZING friends and put together a simple personalized 23 item wedding budget on Excel that includes what I know I will need, estimated costs, and actual costs. You can click on the picture below to download the simple spreadsheet for yourself :)
This is a screen shot of my  end product: A simplified budget that includes every piece I need and need to pay for. There is a link to get the Excel Spreadsheet below.

This is a screen shot of my end product: A simplified budget that includes every piece I need and need to pay for…and please look away from typo on “estimated”–I totally meant to save space by leaving that “a” out of the word.  Click on the picture to download the Excel Spreadsheet version for yourself.

Hopefully this post is helpful to any lucky ladies who have recently acquired fiances–Congratulations and Good Luck!! What are your wedding budget secrets?

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♥ Brittany